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Inquiry & new legislation needed for mental health

Inquiry and new legislation needed for mental health

The report into the case of a mental health patient who killed his father after Counties Manukau Health failed to provide him with adequate care, shows why we need a nationwide inquiry into why mental health services keep failing, says National Health Spokesperson Dr Lynda Scott.

"This district health board is one of many struggling with a large deficit, unable to provide services. I'm concerned this type of thing can happen anywhere, and that there is no assurance that nationally our mental health services are up to scratch.

"We have had cases in Southland, Christchurch and many parts of the country where families who've tried to get help for mental health patients have been ignored and ended up the victims. Dr Scott has drafted a private member's bill aimed at allowing families to be involved in the care of their mentally ill family members, and improving patient assessment.

"In the Paul Ellis case, the health board didn't listen to the family over the dangers of this patient. This has happened in several centres. I have continually called for the Mental Health (Compulsory Assessment Treatment) Act to be reviewed and amended.

"Part two of my proposed bill would give 72 hours for assessment before a judicial review could be sought on the release of a mental health patient. This would have prevented Paul Ellis being released without proper assessment.

"The current legislation gives families no input. In fact it protects the privacy of the patient, often to their own detriment and the detriment of their family, again as occurred in the Paul Ellis case.

"The Ministry of Health says there are lessons in the Paul Ellis case for all mental health services. It is the Minister of Health who is responsible for inadequate services. We don't have enough acute or rehabilitation beds - patients have even been locked up in police cells because of this," says Dr Scott.

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